- Multi-Planar Movements
- Unilateral Loading
- Develop a Strong Core
- Micro Loading
- User Friendly
- Sport Specific Training
- Rotational Movements
- Functional Training
- Improve Grip Strength
- Increase Shoulder Strength & Mobility
- Increase Dynamic Stability
- Amplify Corrective Feedback
- Cardiovascular Conditioning
The human body naturally moves three dimensionally in all three planes; 1) Sagittal, 2) Frontal, 3) Transverse.
So, combining all three movement planes together will result in a more balanced training program that will improve a person’s ability to cope with the demands of their everyday life.
Training with sandbags allow unilateral, multi-planar exercises to help further develop balance, mobility and improve functional movement.
This ability to easily train in multiple planes of motion makes the sandbag a very functional training tool and something that separates itself from many other training implements.
Sandbags differ from traditional strength training tools because they can be used to shoulder the weight unilaterally.
Placing the load on one side of the body creates rotational and side bending torque on the trunk as your body is forced to counter the weight.
This is one of the key reasons why unilaterally loading the body is so beneficial to building a strong core.
The sandbag is perfectly suited for this type of training as the bag can easily be shouldered whilst performing many different movements.
Having this load resting on the body forces the deep superficial trunk muscles to engage at a greater degree to maintain optimum postural alignment.
This style of training carries over into real world strength because everyday activities like carrying a young child or bag of groceries challenges the body to work unilaterally.
Develop a Strong Core
Instability resistance training builds full body stability from the ground up and is scientifically proven to achieve greater core activation.
Using the unstable properties of sand your core is forced to stay engaged through virtually all sandbag exercises, which in turn increases maximal muscle recruitment, whilst improving motor control and increasing full body stabilisation.
Increasing the load is a fundamental element for developing strength. However, an optimal strength progression system is overlooked in most training programs. For each workout performed 1% to 2.5% in strength gains is the upper limit a lifter can expect to achieve (beginner lifters = 2.5%, advanced lifters 1= %).
The problem is increasing the load by 1% to 2.5% isn’t possible with most traditional strength training equipment and performing one additional rep every workout is impossible to maintain. This is one of the reasons why many people hit plateaus in their strength gains.
The solution is micro loading, micro loading allows you to stay within the 1% to 2.5% of strength gains achieved in the prior workout. Sandbags are the perfect micro loading training tool, simply add additional sand to your bag after each workout and gradually increase your strength in small increments over time.
Unlike most other strength training systems the sandbag is soft which makes it a safer alternative when practising complex movements.
Sometimes we avoid some beneficial barbell exercises like the Olympic lifts because of their complexity and the amount of time it takes to coach.
Complex barbell exercises that require much coaching and explosive exercises that will challenge your stability and core can be performed far easier with a sandbag.
They also have flexible handles which is far more comfortable on the wrists than a standard barbell, especially when performing exercises like the clean and front squat.
Sandbags are relatively cheap to purchase, require no specialized equipment, are easy to learn and extremely safe.
They can also be applied to a very large demographic without concern for safety or previous lifting experience.
The sandbag is highly versatile and can be used to perform a wide array of movements.
The shape and design of the sandbag allows the user to hold, grip, throw, swing, carry, press and pull the bag in an almost endless number of ways.
The shape of the bag contours the shoulders perfectly whilst performing traditional exercises like squats, good mornings and lunges.
The different handle positions allow for different grips offering even more options to your exercise selection.
Like many training tools, the sandbag can be used to substitute weight for traditional strength options like dumbbells, barbells, and kettlebells.
They can also be easily transported for outdoor training or used at home without damaging the floors.
Sport Specific Training
The sandbag is a highly effective training tool for many sports.
Olympic lifting exercises like the clean and snatch are excellent movements for developing the power required for many sports.
However, unlike Olympic lifting, most sports are not linear and require the athlete to move in all three planes of motion. Therefore, athletes also need to incorporate multi-planar movements to build a solid power base that is relative to their chosen sport.
These lateral, rotational and diagonal movement patterns can all be targeted with the sandbag which is a key benefit over using a barbell.
Sandbags are an ideal training tool for combative athletes as they mimic the resistance of an opponent. The uneven load, shifting centre of mass and unexpected changes in resistance prepares the athlete for the unpredictably that they may encounter during combat on the mat or inside of the ring.
They’re also highly effective for all sports that require athletes to have strong durable mobile shoulders, a strong grip, an explosive posterior chain, a powerful core, muscular endurance and superior conditioning.
The positioning of the load on barbells leads to excessive angular momentum which can be harmful to the spine.
The short length and even weight distribution of the sandbag means far less angular momentum is generated when rotational movements are performed.
To further reduce the risk of injury from these rotational forces the bag can be released (thrown) at the end of the movement which is something that cannot be replicated with metal weights.
Sandbags are a fantastic functional training tool. Everyday tasks that require us to carry unstable objects, in various holds and in different positions on the body can be trained with a sandbag.
They can also be used to train all of the functional movement patterns. Functional movements are defined primal movement patterns that are present in our everyday lives which include; lunging, squatting, pulling, pushing, rotating, throwing and gait.
Improve Grip Strength
Grip strength is one of the most overlooked aspects of strength training. Good grip strength is the foundation of good healthy shoulders and is required every day for real life situations.
Basic tasks like carry shopping bags, sports such as rock climbing or wrestling and foundational strength exercises like pull ups, deadlifts and rows all require good grip strength.
For many people grip strength is their weakest link, and an improvement in grip strength will oftentimes yield greater gains elsewhere in their training.
Many sandbag exercises require you to grip the handles, which is effective for building forearm and grip strength. You cannot pick up a sandbag without training your grip, therefore, exercises with the sandbag automatically turn into a grip exercise.
Due to the dynamic nature of exercises like cleans, high-pulls and snatches, the forearm flexors and extensors are constantly challenged in a tight-loose-tight-loose fashion.
Grip doesn’t just encompass the hands, wrists and forearms. Holding the bag on the body in different positions will develop a whole range of functional gripping muscles, these include; the bear hug grip, Zercher grip and headlock grip to name just a few.
A study by Mangine GT et al (2008) showed that ballistic exercises with a heavy load had a positive effect in increasing maximal strength in other exercises such as the bench press.
Increase Shoulder Strength & Mobility
The shoulder is not a single joint, but a complex arrangement of bones, ligaments, tendons and muscles that make up the shoulder girdle. This makes the shoulder girdle susceptible to injury.
Poor posture from sitting all day and numerous other factors often impair shoulder mobility. This has a negative impact on other joints including the elbow and wrist.
All upper body push/pull exercises require good strong healthy shoulders. Injury to any parts of the shoulder girdle will significantly restrict a persons training regimen.
Therefore building strong healthy shoulders are paramount to a trainee’s long-term success.
Lifting the sandbag through the full range of motion with good technique will strengthen the ligaments, tendons and muscles whilst improving shoulder mobility.
By utilizing big compound movements the sandbag can be used to condition every muscle. Unlike a standard barbell which is mostly used in the sagitall plane, the sandbag is highly versatile and can be used in a variety of ways in multiple planes of movement to challenge the entire body.
Increase Dynamic Stability
Sandbag training improves the adaptability to unpredictable, unexpected, and quick changes in resistance because of the moving sand inside of the bag, thus creating a dynamic resistance.
This dynamic resistance forces your body to actively engage in order to control and stabilise the shifting load.
The resulting improvement in active stability enhances athletic performance, builds strength and reduces the risk of injury.
Amplify Corrective Feedback
Whilst lifting a dead weight (i.e. barbell single leg deadlift), it’s easy to move through lifting errors without really being aware of them. However, when performing the same exercise with a sandbag. If a mistake is made the sand quickly moves to that side, highlighting the error and amplifying the corrective feedback. Receiving this intrinsic feedback during the exercise will result in improved learning and better motor skills.
Sandbag workouts performed for time with traditional exercises like thrusters and snatches will elevate the heart rate and boost your cardiovascular health.
Thomas et al (2014) showed that continuous ballistic strength training at a moderate pace can produce similar rates of oxygen consumption and slightly higher heart rates as brisk treadmill walking.
The versatility of the sandbag lends itself to flow workouts where combinations of three or more exercises are performed in sequence one after another without rest.